The Guardian has an expose of network that managed to obtain confidential data on numerous individuals. They report:
From his cramped office at the back of his family home on a quiet street on the Hampshire coast, Steve Whittamore was for years the link between news organisations and a network of sources who could penetrate the security of confidential databases.
Eastwards, on the Sussex coast, he paid a long-haired Hells Angel who had perfected a spiel that allowed him to phone up British Telecom to extract home addresses and ex-directory numbers. To his north, in Salisbury, he used a fellow private investigator who worked on mobile phone companies as well. To the west, in Devon, a civil servant in the Department for Work and Pensions had access to the giant database of the social security system. Inside a regional office of the DVLA, he had two men who sold him the private details of any registered car owner. At Wandsworth police station in south London, a civilian worker sold criminal records and other personal information from the Police National Computer.
Whittamore is only one of a dozen or more private investigators who have been involved in breaking the law for Fleet Street. There is the former actor who uses his skills as a mimic to “blag” the same databases; the former detective who was bounced out of the police for corruption and who has spent years carrying cash bribes from newspapers to serving officers; the London investigator who paid police to moonlight for his agency and to provide live intelligence that he sold on to newspapers. Some have supplied the technology that allows journalists to use “trojan horse” emails to steal information from computers, tap live phone calls and hack into voicemail messages, the technique that led to prison two years ago for a journalist and a private investigator working for the News of the World.